Ticks are literally the peskiest little buggers and annoyingly scary, too. Sure you might not be super worried about them, but ask anyone who has suffered from Lyme disease and they will tell you that they wish they'd paid heed to the little critters before being infected.

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I speak these words because this is my real life. It was the summer of 2006 and I was living in Mason, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. My house backed up to protected land, but the protected land had started to seep into my backyard, so I decided to cut the tall grass away from my fence.

I spent hours in the blistering sun hacking away at the overgrowth wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and gardening clogs and I thought nothing of it...until a few days later when I started to feel really sick and an examination of my body showed that I had the tell-tail bullseye rash along where the waistband of my shorts had sat, wrapping from my back around to my side.

Lyme. Doctors told me I absolutely positively had Lyme disease. This was after they (tried to hide it from me) panicked and hooked me up to an IV and then sent me home with prescriptions for a slew of powerful medications.

Lyme isn't something to take lightly and after my experience with it, I am obsessive about making sure not to be outdoors without some sort of protection, to know where my tick twister is at all times, and to always, always check myself and my family for ticks. The thought of my little boy getting Lyme hurts my heart because I know how not-fun it was for me and I don't wish that on him, or on my husband.

You and I are ready to explore the outdoors, go on hikes, and play ball with the kids in our yards. Maybe even to roll down a hill or have a picnic in the park. Fear of ticks shouldn't stop you from doing any of these things, but you need to know that as the weather gets warmer, ticks are thirsting for blood.

According to the CDC, about 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year in the United States and if you look at this map, you'll see just how many of the cases are right here in New York and Pennsylvania. Scary, really.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to protect against Lyme disease. Wearing long sleeves, pants, and boots in the height of the summer heat just isn't feasible but, you can spray your clothing with a permethrin-based repellent. Note that this is just for clothes and gear, not to be used on your skin. If your skin can handle DEET, that repellent is pretty much the gold standard against ticks and you can and should spray it on your clothes.

Keep a tick twister handy so that if you find a tick on your body you can extract it. Once extracted, you should put the tick in a plastic baggie and seal it. Then, take it to your doctor so he or she can test it to see if it is a carrier of the disease.

Also good to do is shower as soon as you can once going inside from being outside and pay close attention to between your toes, behind your ears, and in your hair. If you have trouble checking any of these spots, initiate the buddy system.

People think I'm out of control, but I swear by using a spreader and spreading the completely harmless (for humans, pets, produce, lawn, etc.) diatomaceous earth all over our lawn. Knock on wood and cross your fingers but years of doing this means that we've never found a tick on our bodies.

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